PORTLAND, Maine — Two of Portland’s music-focused nonprofit organizations, the Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ (FOKO) and the Choral Art Society (CAS), have joined together in an alliance to bolster the creative output and reduce the administrative overlap of both organizations. According to FOKO’s Executive Director Kathleen Grammer, “the newly formed alliance promotes goodwill between the two organizations and will provide a platform for aligning day-to-day business operations in an efficient and effective manner.” By reducing overlap, the groups hope to increase efforts in their respective performance, outreach, and education programs.
The alliance is currently in its early stages, but the initial parameters of the association are clear. “This is not a merger,” says Grammer. “The two organizations will remain separate, but will be sharing staff, office space, and equipment. As we’re already housed in the office suite with Portland Symphony Orchestra and Portland Ovations, this alliance seemed like a logical next step to streamline operations.” CAS President Heidi Seitz is in the process of preparing for the resettlement and the new assignment of duties. “We’re in the transition phase,” Seitz says. “We’re transferring duties at the moment and will be moving in to share space with FOKO by early September. Since we’ll be sharing personnel, there will be a new delineation of tasks that we’re hoping to iron out in the changeover period.” Despite the fledgling status of the alliance, both organizations are enthusiastic about the opportunities the new association could present. “As we make this transition and begin working with Kathy and FOKO, we are excited for the potential to grow and enhance what we offer our singers and our audiences in the coming years,” says Seitz.
Both CAS and FOKO seek to explore a wide range of musical styles and applications of the talent within their respective organizations, from FOKO’s Phantom of the Opera silent film showings with organist Tom Trenney to CAS’s upcoming joint performance of Leoš Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass with both FOKO and the Portland Symphony Orchestra on September 30th. Tracy Hawkins, who is both a singer with CAS and a member of the FOKO board, says, “FOKO and CAS have collaborated many times in the past and it has always been a fantastic experience. I think the alliance could lead to a lot more cross-fertilization in the future.” FOKO President Larry Rubinstein agrees, saying, “When the organ comes back in its full glory, I think we’ll have the chance to show audiences what it’s like to really experience the organ. It will be like hearing CAS’s Christmas at the Cathedral performance during the holiday season… they truly capture the sense of uplifting the human spirit.”
FOKO operates as a steward for the Kotzschmar Organ—the massive pipe organ that has been housed in Merrill Auditorium for over a century—and has been developing programs and seasons of performances to highlight the cultural importance of the “King of Instruments.” Primarily featuring Portland’s own Municipal Organist Ray Cornils as well as other outstanding performers and organizations from around the world, FOKO’s concerts also succeed in demonstrating the dynamic range of the pipe organ, both in tonality and in function. CAS is comprised of three ensembles, ranging from 17 singers in their Camerata to upwards of 115 in their Masterworks Chorus. Dr. Harold Brown founded CAS in 1972, and the group has been under the direction of Dr. Robert Russell since 1979. Having toured across Europe and performed in the Washington National Cathedral, CAS represents some of the most talented and seasoned singers in the country.
For more information about CAS or FOKO, please visit their respective websites at choralart.org and foko.org